The annual Trust Barometer, now in its 18th iteration, measures trust across institutions (including government, media, business and NGOs), sectors and geographies, surveying more than 33,000 respondents across 28 countries.
The 2018 survey found that the proportion of respondents in the UK considering themselves part of the “informed public” – defined as those who consume business or political news several times a week – had reached an all-time low of just 6%.
A significant proportion of respondents were consuming less news (33%) and a further fifth (19%) avoided the news altogether; among these groups, many felt the news agenda was too depressing (40%), that the news was too biased (33%), and that the news itself was controlled by “hidden agendas” (27%).
While the overall level of trust in media remained unchanged from 2017 on 32%, the Barometer reported a 13 percentage point lift in trust for traditional media, reversing a five-year decline to reach 61%; trust in social media, meanwhile, dropped two points to just 24%.
At the same time, experts and leaders appeared to be regaining credibility, especially CEOS (+14 percentage points) and journalists (+13).
Underlying these shifts is Brexit, with the Barometer showing a 43:39 split between those opposed to it and those in favour, and charting a steady rise since 2016 in the level of pessimism about living standards and economic prospects.
Edelman suggested that there is an opportunity lies with business to fill the trust gap where others are falling short – particularly if there is a focus on reputational drags like executive pay and tax.
Globally, Edelman observed a polarisation of trust, with – for the first time in the Barometer’s 18 years – a distinct split between extreme trust gainers and losers.
No country saw steeper declines than the United States, it reported, with a 37-point aggregate drop in trust across all institutions. At the opposite end of the spectrum, China experienced a 27-point gain, more than any other country.
Sourced from Edelman; additional content by WARC staff